“I’m depressed”

I’m sure I’m going to get some slack for this post…it is what it is. This post is meant to start a conversation but a conversation which should be had with your doctor and preferably with a psychiatrist AND a therapist. The latter two are entities which are often neglected and overlooked. Depression is in fact a disease what I will be discussing is the all to common way we use the term, “I’m depressed.”

This post is also not meant to be a diagnostic tool. This post is meant to cause discussion and hopefully cause some to look within at their lives and learn to control what they can, let go of what they cannot and as the Serenity Prayer states, “to learn to know the difference.”

True depression is no joke and should not ever be confused with the ups and down which are naturally occurring in life. There are stressors beyond our realm of control and there are those not only within our realm of control but often caused by our own actions such as posts we make on Facebook or the time we decided to drink too much and drive causing our arrest.

I’m depressed. I hear this stated several times each day, every day. Of course I’m a therapist and I’m supposed to hear this statement everyday. The problem is most people who make this statement are not depressed. Most aren’t even sad. They have on the other hand been perhaps dealt a bad hand but more than likely we simply haven’t received what we thought we were due.

I grew up in the sixties and don’t recall hearing this statement. To be fair, those individuals who were legitimately suffering from depression never told anyone and probably didn’t seek help. There certainly weren’t any television commercials touting the symptoms of depression and suggesting you go and see your doctor because you needed medication.

My dad was born in 1939. He was born with polio, retired for medical reasons in 1990 and today at the age of 76 is unable to walk. His legs will not support his weight and his only mode of transportation is a battery-powered scooter. I recall my dad telling me about a specific conversation his father had had with him. He said, “Don, you’re going to get up everyday and decide what kind of day you’re going to have and how you’re going to allow people to treat you. If you want to be treated like a victim then be a victim.” My father reminded me of this story when I complained about not wanting to go to school, how I was being bullied or the math test which I tried in vain to avoid.

Today we live in a society where the value system shared by many is one of complaining how bad my life is. There is no end to the support groups and self-help books which remind us how resilient we can be and how we all have the tools to be successful in life.

For my therapy career which has spanned almost 30-years, I have always referred to the self-help genre as “feel good” books. We purchase said books, read said books and we feel better…for anywhere from a few days to a few months. Because we usually change nothing but expect miracles to happen we are ultimately disappointed in the book and its author. We write a negative review on Amazon.com, tell others not to waste their money and go on feeling, in many cases sorry for ourselves. We visit our doctor and tell him/her we haven’t been sleeping/eating well and that we “feel depressed.” We leave the office with a prescription for a medication which often not only has side effects but does not work effectively because we do not have a true diagnosis of depression.

What is depression? Below are the symptoms of depression:
Sadness or depressed mood most of the day or almost every day
Loss of enjoyment in things that were once pleasurable
Major change in weight (gain or loss of more than 5% of weight within a month) or appetite
Insomnia or excessive sleep almost every day
Physical restlessness or sense of being rundown that is noticeable by others
Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness or excessive guilt almost every day
Problems with concentration or making decisions almost every day
Recurring thoughts of death or suicide, suicide plan, or suicide attempt
Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.

If you have any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor AND a therapist. It’s important to address any underlying causes of depression. In future posts I’ll cover Adjustment Disorders and Major Depression.

Morning Paddle

I woke early this morning and loaded the boat on top of the Element. This was my first paddle in several months. I drove to one of my favorite put-is on the Erie canal and unloaded my boat. After I packed safety gear in the boat, I sat quietly on a nearby bench watching a family of ducks as they foraged the nearby grounds for breakfast.

I eased the boat into the still water and slid silently into the cockpit. I adjusted the spray skirt and paddle and began. The only sound was made as my paddle blades entered and exited the water.

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I paddled past many ducks and geese and saw a couple of other paddlers out enjoying the solitude of this morning. I paddled into a secluded lagoon, reached forward with my paddle and stretched across the deck of my boat. There I sat silently bobbing in the water, my eyes closed simply being one with my boat and with my surroundings.

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As time passed by it became time to head home. The solitude of the early morning not only broken but gone. I was passed by three power boats, a few fisherman in their own boats and a couple of other paddlers. Several fisherman also lined the banks of the canal.

I paddled back to the put-in, released the spray skirt and brought my legs out of the cockpit as the bow gently kissed the shore. Again I sat, tired but content with today’s efforts and feeling a tremendous amount of gratitude for my life.

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I returned home, brewed a cup of coffee and swayed in my hammock as I wrote. A gentle breeze stirred the leaves; the sound of cicadas joining the chorus before my eyes fluttered and sleep took me.

What are you thankful for today?

Namaste

A loss

The news hit me hard Monday; Robin Williams has died. News which I didn’t want to hear and certainly didn’t want to accept.
 
I know of Robin’s struggles with addiction and depression and can relate personally to the latter. Depression is that silent illness; the illness which no one can see. As a result when symptoms are especially difficult to manage, those around us simply say, “Get over it. It’s no big deal.”
 
Rest in Peace Robin.
 
I hope you find peace in the next life and know you have had a tremendous impact on those who watched your movies and had the luxury of knowing you. 
 
I hope your struggle allows others to seek the help which is available and to overcome the shame which is too often associated with seeking help for depression. There are so many beautiful things in this world and you are one of them. Know your humor has helped me to overcome difficulties in my own life and to become the person I am today.

The ‘Dacks

I returned from a vacation in May and decided I would not let happen what happened last year. It was one year between vacations. I took off a day here and there to make several long weekends, but it wasn’t enough. I found myself tired, depressed and angry. Then winter arrived. Normally winter is a speed bump but this winter lasted well into March. We received a late snow of several inches and continued freezing and below freezing temperatures. Lake Erie was over 95% covered by ice that remained as deep as 36-inches. The cold temperatures and grey skies caught me by surprise and threw me into a depression which left me wishing I had started a medication.
 
Shortly after returning from vacation, I planned a four day trip to the Adirondacks. Nancy was unable to get the time off so this vacation was to be about me.
 
I arrived several hours ago. Work followed me by choice. The decision to engage in work is sometimes a difficult one. Do I review several patient charts daily which might take me 20-30 minutes or do I wait until I return and potentially have 3-4 hours of work? When I break the equation down to those, the decision becomes easier. I’ll complete the work daily.
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I arrived at the Lone Birch, logged into the EMR and got the work out of the way. I changed and went for a very hilly,very hot run. It is after all the Adirondacks. As I train for my first ultra, I learn the practice of walking as part of my run. This is difficult for someone who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s with a very conservative work ethic. My father used to say, “Never get caught doing nothing.” As a result, the thought of walking during a run has, in the past brought pangs of guilt. At 51 there’s no way I could handle the heat and the hills. Perhaps one of these items but certainly not both. Today, there was no guilt. I t is what it is and I am OK with that decision.
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I finished the run feeling not exhausted but surprisingly refreshed. Tomorrow shall be another run before a hike up Goodnow Mountain.
 
Namaste

We’re home!

We’re home! Our plane touched down at 10:40 PM.

This was my first vacation in 9-months with the exception of several “long weekends.” I thought I could do it, even though I’m still unsure what “it” is. Is “it” the desire to have others admire me because I’m willing to not take the vacation time which I have earned? Is “it” the desire to have others admire me because I’m living the American dream? You know the dream, working 80-hour weeks and then complaining about working 80-hour weeks? Id it the voice of my mother in my head remind me as she did when I was much younger, “You shouldn’t complain. You should be happy you have a job. There are a lot of people out of work who would want your job.” There’s the guilt with which I grew up!

Sunday night we returned from dinner and a light rain was falling. I don’t think anyone wanted to admit it but we were all pretty happy about the rain although I’m fairly certain I was the only one who takes as much pleasure in rain as I do. The rain “forced us to take some time off.” Time off while on vacation! What does that even mean? You know you’ve said the same thing. Right now I’m typing this as I’m taking “one additional day off to recover from my vacation before I return to work.”

What a crazy time in which we live, taking time off from taking time off. We no longer know how to relax and simply be. We inaccurately throw around words like being “mindful” because we believe our vocabulary will bring happiness and when it doesn’t, we damn “mindfulness.” Of course I’m not sure we ever understood that concept of relaxing and enjoying the moment in which we are presently in and in not judging it. So anyway, back to the light rain falling on Sunday night…I was checking out Facebook, because the blinking blue light on my phone told me to. I ran across something my niece had posted on her blog. She talked about doing this challenge called #100HappyDays. I smiled, thought about engaging in this for about a minute and then moved on. I have been a therapist for almost 30-years and I do this for a living. I don’t think that makes me an expert by any stretch of the imagination as there are times when I have to work really hard for that smile, the smile which is the outward representation which denotes someone’s happiness. I read a post on Kricky’s blog (http://krickykonoronhkwa.wordpress.com/) which got me thinking. Why not? What can it hurt? Do I really take the time to notice the little things around me, everyday? There was also a comment on the website advertising this photo challenge, it challenged me with what I know all too well…guilt. The statement asked, “Can you be happy for 100-days in a row?” It then said, “You don’t have time for this, right?!” I thought for a minute and said, “I do have time for this.” It’s not about finding the time, it’s about making the time for those things which are important to us. HAPPINESS is very important to me. I have a “Gratitude” basket which sits on the corner of my desk. Everyday I add one slip of paper which denotes something for which I was thankful that day. I thought, “This challenge isn’t much of a challenge for me as I see many things everyday which bring me happiness, so, I decided to take this challenge. The challenge for me will be my perception of those things around me.

The “challenge” in this challenge, is, in my opinion the ability to look at or see things differently. A Facebook friend commented on my check-in at the Tampa airport and she asked, “Leaving?” I responded, “Yes…sadly.” My cousin commented, “Leaving is always the hardest part but you can’t be sad about the departure unless you had the thrill of the arrival!” Well said Collin.  This statement could not be more true. See, it is in our perceptions, our happiness and our sadness. Some of us cry because we no longer have a loved one in our lives and some of us cry because we are happy to have this individual cross our path and to recognize they have enriched our lives for their very presence. I’m the guy at the funeral who says, “I’m going to miss that person but I am truly thankful I had the opportunity to share as many years with that person as I did.”

If your heart so desires or if you can “find” the time, follow me on throughout this “challenge on Instagram (henrydavidthoreau) where I’ll be posting those photos or on my Facebook page. Just look me up. You know the name. There are 24-hours in a day. If you can’t find 5-minutes to be happy or to identify those things which bring or have brought us happiness, that is sadness.

Namaste.

I’m getting there or why I didn’t listen to the voice in my head.

I haven’t written my blog for a couple of months. There has been little desire and frankly, beyond writing in my journal the thought of writing seemed more like a chore.
 
I have no good reason for not writing more. It’s not that I was too busy there just hasn’t been anything in my head that I felt like writing about. This winter has been long and as of this writing (March 26) is getting on my nerves. I’ve written in the past about my love for winter and I do, love winter but seriously; I’m about done with this season. I woke this morning to snow…again. My heart sinks when I see it. I know it sounds like whining but quite a few people who I cross paths with agree, this winter can go away.
 
I haven’t run with any consistency since the Super bowl. I ran that Sunday when I had no business doing anything other than getting up, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner and watching tv. But I did run. By mile three I wasn’t feeling it. I  thought about calling my wife for a ride but I succumbed to the voice in my head which kept uttering the word “whimp.” So I kept running. I stopped three or four more times still not feeling anything other than a strong desire to get home. I thought again about calling my wife for a ride and again the voice in my head put that idea to rest. By now there was a hitch in my stride that “felt better as I ran.” The next voice in my head kept calling me “idiot.” I knew it wasn’t good. I knew this pain would result in time off. I checked in with my body throughout the run but that voice too was overpowered by the voice in my head. I felt tense, tight and had even less rhythm than I normally have. Each stride felt forced; my body and mind arguing. My mind won.  
 
Here it is a little over two months later. A few visits to the chiropractor and massage therapist and a helluva lot of stretching and I’m finally able to run 3-miles without pain. There’s some mild discomfort which hangs around long enough to remind me to not rush back. Last year I was injured and unable to run when I arrived in Florida and the entire summer was missed. I won’t let that happen this year.
 
I ran 5K on Monday and felt really good. The run felt good, physically and emotionally. If it hadn’t been for the injury and my recovery plan, I would have gone further. It was that kind of run. I have done quite a bit of walking and have used this form of locomotion as an adjunct therapy
 
For now, I’ll keep listening to that voice in my head.

I did it again.

I did it again!
 
I found myself, allowing myself to become so frustrated with this long winter and getting overwhelmed by work that I missed the signs. The signs were apparently screaming at me and I apparently had the volume muted. 
 
The bottom line is I ran when I shouldn’t have. The desire was purely to “put in more miles”. I should have listened to my body over the previous weeks. I thought I was listening because there was no pain and no discomfort. I just listened to the wrong voices. These were the voices that said, “Don’t get up (at 4:30 AM).” “Don’t run. It’s not a race to put in more miles so stop comparing yourself to others.” This voice, if I would have heeded it’s cautionary note would have saved me from pain, discomfort and more importantly the depression of not being able to run.
 
This Saturday I meet with my chiropractor. I’m taking it as a good sign that this Saturday is not only one which he had available but also there was an available appointment. Despite the diagnosis, I’ll not be running for a few weeks and when given the OK to return to exercise, it’ll be something mildly less stressful to my body.
 
I spent quite a bit of time journaling this past weekend and thinking of the decision I have made to push myself. We hear all the time “If we want to improve we need to push ourselves.” I also need to be reminded that “If we want to remain injury free we need to not push ourselves.”
 
For now, I’m OK with not pushing myself. I want to be able to run for many years to come and do so with little to no injury. An injury last year forced me to miss the entire Spring and Summer. Not a step from April through the end of August. Not running involves a level of humility which I thought I had reached…but will be tested yet again. My goal is to pass the test this time and to not have to repeat the class.